Published Jun 26, 2010Maryland-based hard rock veterans Clutch have been creating mind-altering music for almost two decades. They've managed to maintain a consistent following through constant releases and touring, while gaining an array of new fans along the way by melding their groove-heavy stoner rock with blues, funk and a slew of other genres, creating a sound that is distinctly Clutch. Following the band's latest full-length release, 2009's Strange Cousins From the West, their ninth studio album to date, the quartet have now unleashed their dual DVD set, Live at the 9:30, via their own label, Weathermaker Music. The first disc features a 90-minute concert of the band performing a 19-song set, including the special treat of their entire 1995 self-titled album, at Washington, DC's legendary 9:30 Club. Combined with the second disc, which features a two-hour behind-the-scenes movie about their 2009 North American tour, called Fortune Tellers Make a Killing Nowadays, Clutch know how to give their fans their money's worth. The double DVD set also includes rare show footage from 1991 and 1992, band interviews and commentary from mega Clutch fans like Duff Goldman from Food Network's Ace of Cakes and Scott "Wino" Weinrich, as well as members of System of a Down, Fu Manchu and more. Yet while the band have been highly revered by many, they have remained below the radar. But as riff-master Tim Sult tells Exclaim!, Clutch just keep doing what they're doing regardless of who's paying attention.
Is the release of the Live at the 9:30 DVD a way to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Clutch?
Guitarist Tim Sult: I don't think we're trying to purposely celebrate the 20th anniversary of the band quite yet; sometimes I like to just pretend we're a brand new band.
Why play the self-titled album in its entirety rather than any of the other releases?
The reason that we were playing that album in its entirety really was to celebrate the 15th anniversary of that album. Plus, it's kind of a more realistic album for us to play in its entirety because something like Jam Room is pretty much impossible to play live because there's so much production on it. We basically picked it because it was 15 years old and it's something we've never done before, so we thought we'd try that. It seems to be a lot of people's favourite of our albums too, so it went over pretty well.
Seeing Clutch live is such an intense experience, do you feel the DVD captured that?
I think the DVD looks really good. Coming from a fan's perspective, I'm not quite sure if it does capture it because I'm just really too close to the whole thing, but maybe it's just not as loud.
Why record the DVD at Washington, DC's 9:30 Club?
That's really our hometown club. We're based out of Maryland and the old 9:30 Club is where we really got our start; it's a hometown show basically.
Clutch's sound is so distinct, yet it can be difficult to describe. How would you describe it?
Well, I guess if you want to break it down, if you want to get something into your mind, think of a cusp between Funkadelic and Black Sabbath. That would be the way I would describe it, if I were to compare it to other bands. Otherwise I would just say it's hard rock. We get lumped in with stoner rock, hard rock, metal, whatever. Call us whatever you want, we're just rock, we're just gonna keep doing what we're doing.
Each Clutch release, including the last studio release, Strange Cousins From the West, is always a bit different than the last. What's the writing process like these days?
These days we just get in a room together and start hashing out riffs, really. We've already started working on the next album too. It's just a constant thing that we're constantly doing, we'll just get together, lay down a bunch of riffs, forget about them for a while and then come back to them a few months later and see if there's anything there. So, we're in the process of compiling riffs for the next album right now.
Is this writing process much different from when the band first started out?
Well, it seems like these days there are a lot more ideas, whereas back in the old days we didn't really discard anything. For our first album, Transnational Speedway League, and even up through The Elephant Riders, we really didn't write too many other songs other than those. But now, we have considerably more material at this point in our lives. I guess back then, it just took us longer to come up with stuff, whereas these days we just jam so much together and we can come up with a decent idea. Back in the early '90s we really didn't have that experience of jamming, we'd never done that before, that's something that kind of came about through the career of Clutch.
Clutch riffs are so unique and catchy and nothing ever sounds the same, even after nine albums. How do you come up with the stuff you write?
Well, everyone in the band writes riffs, so that definitely helps with keeping it different. I don't know, to me it's just a lot of blues-based rock riffs. The way I personally come up with it is just sort of jamming and getting out different ideas and expanding on those ideas and trying to come up with a song. I can't really explain it, we just kind of do it, you know, we don't really think about it too much. I don't if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but it seems to work out.
What are your influences as a guitarist?
Early on when I started I was into stuff like Randy Rhoads, Iron Maiden, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin. And then I got more into hardcore like Minor Threat, Circle Jerks, stuff like that. So, early on I would say stuff like classic rock and hardcore are my main influences pretty much. Lately, I've been trying to make a conscious effort to listen to some newer music. I've been listening to that past couple albums the Melvins have put out and we get to play with them at Bonnaroo so that'll be pretty cool. Meshuggah is pretty good, I listen to those guys in my car sometimes. We played with them at some festivals in Australia and they were absolutely incredible, very heavy.
Clutch are so under-the-radar, yet you're a lot of people's favourite band and you're so admired in many different music scenes. Why do you think that is?
I think it's just because we continue to tour constantly and people can come see us live and we never stop putting out albums. I don't know, we just keep doing what we're doing and people seem to like that. I think it's mostly that we play live so much and we go to the smaller towns all the time too, so a lot of people appreciate that as well.
What's going on with your other projects Lionize and the Bakerton Group?
Lionize have been around for a lot longer than I've been in the band. They're kind of a reggae-rock band from Maryland. I played on two albums with those guys and they're going to be out on the next run with us, so I'll be playing with them too. There's also the Bakerton Group, which is the instrumental version of Clutch. We've put out two albums under the Bakerton Group name, we've done some touring with the Bakerton Group opening for Clutch and we've done quite a few big super headlining shows as well. That band has been going on since the mid-'90s, but we never got around to releasing an album until 2007. All the other members of Clutch are in that band and it's just all instrumentals, not instrumental versions of Clutch songs, but different songs, more jam-oriented stuff. We just had so many riffs and so many different song ideas compiled from the time that From Beale Street to Oblivion came out that we just had enough material to put out an instrument album as well. The song arrangement style is quite different than the average Clutch song I would say, these are song ideas that more just lend themselves to being instrumentals, there's a lot more instrumental hooks and a lot less room for vocals.
What's next for Clutch?
We'll be going on tour for a couple weeks, it'll actually be Lionize, the Bakerton Group and Clutch, so I'll be playing three sets, which is fun, it's a good warm-up. Lionize is a good warm-up for Bakerton, Bakerton is a good warm-up for Clutch. The Lionize set and Bakerton set are only about a half an hour each, so it's no big deal. We're are also doing reissues of the past three albums that we released before Strange Cousins, because we got the rights to those three albums back from the label that we were on previously and a lot of those CDs have been out of print for a while, so it's just time to bring them all back. And they're going to be in double CD form, so the first one will be the From Beale Street to Oblivion re-release and the bonus CD has four songs that we recorded live for the BBC, including a cover of "Politician" by Cream and some songs that we recorded live in Australia as well. So the bonus CD has eight songs, plus the video for "Electric Worry." And then after that we're putting out Robot Hive/Exodus and then Blast Tyrant after that.